Stranded on Torah Island
As we get closer to Shavuos, I thought it might be interesting to see the different ways our readers love Torah. According to some of the machshavah seforim, the mon of the Wilderness contained all flavors because it came through the Sar HaTorah. Torah as well contains all kinds of intellectual delights, and pleases the soul’s pallate according to the way it is approached and prepared.
I’ve designed a little exercise that might demonstrate the different flavors our readers find within Torah study. Imagine that you were going to be exiled, alone, to a South Pacific island. Among other survival gear, you were given permission to take along just one sefer (or set of seforim) whose original publication date was someplace in the last 300 years. What would you choose to take on the island?
My choice is predictable for anyone who has read my handling of the issue of basic Torah competence. I would take the Dzhimitrovsky edition of the Ketzos HaChoshen. That’s the one with the great notes, introducing all the lomdishe (Litvaks only allowed on my island!)
Please share your choice with the CC community, and show how different personalities find fulfillment of their Torah quest in different parts of Torah literature.
The Collected Writings of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, especially the volume on Jewish Education
Would have to second the Ketzos, although Shaarei Yosher is fighting hard
The Garden of Emuna by Rabbi Shalom Arush with translation by Rabbi Lazer Brody. The purpose of all seforim (and the purpose of all Torah study and mitzvot performance) is d’veikus b’Hashm which is emunah. Especially when stranded alone on a far away isle there is nothing you would need more than the pure and simple faith that (a) there is a Creator, (b) that He created, and contains to sustain, you and all that you see, and (c) that everything He does is for your very best. There are other more “classical” answers including Mesillat Yesharim, and more recent masterpieces such as Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, and of course Likutei Moharan but in the end it all comes down to emunah and under the extreme circumstances you present I can think of nothing you would need more (except for food and water:)).
I would want to say Michtav meiEliyahu, but would have to say Arukh haShulchan. My heart loves aggadita, but my brain knows halakhah is the bread-and-butter of learning.
Or maybe Pachad Yitzchaq.
Aroch Hashulchan [All 8 volumes with the 8 volume AH Haatid also]
Otzar Ha’Poskim CD, a laptop with unlimited battery(or maybe a solar recharger), and a printer to provide Shabbat reading.
Alternately, I would agree with Aruch HaShulchan for practical reasons- need to be able to look up Halacha, admire his appraoch, readable Hebrew.
Ha’amek Davar of the Netziv.
I know it’s not from the last 300 years. But I would take the שירת דבורה edition so that counts
A set of the writings of the Chida. It has everything in it: drush, halacha, mussar, lomdus, history.
Likutei Etzos of Reb Nachman. Only such encouragement and faith could get me through being stranded. (Thank you Chaim Frankel for the insight.)
Eliezer Berkovits, [Lo BaShamyim Hi]: Not in Heaven: The Nature and Function of Halakha
Encyclopedia Talmudit – assuming I get the missing volumes as they are published air mailed to me 🙂
I was going to say the Kehati Mishnayos, and while i would prefer s good machshava sefer, in the end the Aruch Hashulchan. Not only for the halacha which is critical, but also the lomdus on gemara and sugyos that inter alia is there.
The collected writings of Rabbi Lord Sacks,that would not only get me through the loneliness, but would make sure I’d know what to do when I got off the island, and rebuild a life.
(Ok, so they are not collected yet, but they will be at some point!)
No one for Mishna Berurah?
from the ameratzim cheering section , how about for those of us whose joy is in chumash– not sure between Talelei Orot vs Kol Kitvei Nechama Liebovitz….
First a question: Why just sefarim first published in the past 300 years? What about those of us whose deepest love for Torah is not reflected in an acharon, but in a rishon?
In any case, if it has to be an acharon, I echo those above who already named the Arukh ha-Shulchan. Although it my case it would truly be the entire set, i.e. include Arukh ha-Shulchan ha-atid.
[YA – Because it would then become far less interesting as an exercise. Too many of us would then HAVE to choose from the rishonim!]
For me, there is no question which Torah books I would most want to take with me. It would be anything and everything by the Rambam. There is not even a close second among anybody I can think of. Now, I realize that the Rambam lived more than 300 years ago, but the question was which publications I would take with me, and all of the works I have of the Rambam, were published actually in the last few years. Okay, so maybe I am sneaking in the Rambam on a technicality, but he is worth it. But, if the question is really which Torah thinker’s works of the last 300 years I would most want to take on a remote island with me, it would be the Ramchal, followed by Rav Nachman of Breslov. Honorable mentions might include Rav Hirsch, the Chovetz Chaim, Rav Dessler, Rav Soloveitchik, and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.
“Too many of us would then HAVE to choose from the rishonim”
So why not limit the survey to a pick from the year 1000 to the year 1550? I believe the Rambam would be the choice of many.
But to pick a single acharon, I would go with the collected writings of Rav Yonassan Eibshutz. Urim Vetumim, Kreisi U’plaisi, Ya’aros Dvash, etc. Now he was a real Renaissance man! Supreme Halachist, Kabbalist, Darshan, you name it all rolled into one.
I want to say Har’rei Kedem. But if I’m really stranded for a while, it would have to be the Minchas Chinuch, given its scope and incorporation of the Sefer HaChinuch. (FWIW, I consider an Otzar Roshei Teivos part of the set for Minchas Chinuch 🙂
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch’s complete commentary on the Torah – but only after coercing Feldheim Publishers to include his commentary on Tehillim in that set. After all, there’s no provision for bringing along cd player, so I’d need Dovid HaMelech’s greatest 150 hits, elucidated as only RSRH does.
I’d have to agree with the Aruch Hashulchan. (Micah, Mishna Brura limits the learner to Orach Chaim.) However if a second set was allowed I’d make it Malbim on Tanach.-Hands down!
Would Brisker Torah be disqualified since it would be a maase of being stranded but not a “chalos stranded” due to learning putting someone in a state of paradise? 🙂
The real question is: will Uncle Moishy also be on Torah Island with me? Or, did he get off and cross the Hudson before I got there? 🙂
I would say the collected writings of the Chofetz Chaim tz”l (which come in one set) and I would hope Mishna Berura would be part of that set.
I second Shmuel’s choice of Haamek Davar, but on condition that the Netziv’s Rinah Shel Torah (on Shir haShirim) is part of the set.
Yabia Omer 10 volumes.
haemek davar. and maybe haemek hash’elah. But especially the former–if I’m on a desert island I probably don’t need any ordinary sifre halakha )(does Artscroll have one for that yet?), but it’ll include a text of khumash and some na”kh , along with brilliant and inspiring commentary. haemek hash’ela is just cool and includes rav hai gaon.
Of course if I could bring the bavli… 🙂 y’rushalmi would be great, but I probably can’t read enough of the darned thing… My fault of course. Or is it? 🙂 Yeah, I’m talking to you, run-of-the-mill Lithuanian y’shivot!
Honorable mention to the “Yeshurun” collection written by Rav Gedaliah Felder. Rav Felder writes with the organization and clarity of the Aruch Hashulchan,bekius which comes close to Rav Ovadia, ( I would never have the chutzpah to say any contemporary is Rav Yosef’s equal in bekius.) and includes a historical perspective.
I respectfully suggest that Rav Felder’s seforim do not get enough recognition and highly encourage everyone to check them out!!